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Apple sued over Amazing Stories sync

By | Published on Wednesday 13 May 2020


Apple is on the receiving end of a new lawsuit filed by a music company, though the litigation relates to Apple TV+ not Apple Music. And really the tech giant is just caught up in the middle of a dispute between two music companies.

The lawsuit relates to the revival of the US television series ‘Amazing Stories’ which debuted on Apple’s video-on-demand platform earlier this year. Darrell Jackson and his company JED Productions claim that the second episode in that series, called ‘The Heat’, uses a track owned by his company without permission.

The episode, according to Jackson’s lawsuit, “tells a story of young people in Oakland”, the Californian city on the east side of San Francisco Bay where JED Productions is based. One scene depicts a sideshow and is soundtracked by a song called, well, ‘Side Show’. That track comes from a 1989 album called ’41Fivin’ by an Oakland-based hip hop outfit called 415, and Jackson claims his company owns both the song and recording rights in it.

In case you don’t know, the lawsuit provides a handy definition of what is meant by ‘sideshow’ in this context, courtesy of Wikipedia: “A sideshow is an informal demonstration of automotive stunts now often held in vacant lots, and public intersections, most often in the East Bay region of the San Francisco Bay Area, United States. Sideshows first appeared in Oakland, California as informal social gatherings of youth”.

‘Side Show’ the song, the lawsuit notes, “had specific relevance to Oakland and the East Bay’s youth scene” at the time it was released back in 1989 and, it adds, “as made clear from defendants’ use of the song in ‘Amazing Stories’, still does”.

So how did Apple and the production company behind ‘Amazing Stories’ – NBC Universal – come to make use of ‘Side Show’ without getting the required licences? Well, that probably has something to do with Nakamiche Muzic Publishing, also listed as a defendant on the lawsuit.

Jackson states: “Beginning sometime after plaintiff registered the copyrights in ‘Side Show’ [with the US Copyright Office] and continuing thereafter, the Nakamiche defendants falsely represented and continue to falsely represent that they own the copyright in the composition and the sound recording of ‘Side Show’, including by … falsely and publicly registering the composition as their own with [US collecting society] ASCAP”.

And that includes falsely representing themselves as the owner of the ‘Side Show’ copyrights to possible sync clients like, say, NBC Universal and Apple, to whom it “fraudulently licensed” the track, Jackson alleges.

Although the real beef here is with Nakamiche Muzic Publishing, the lawsuit sues that company for contributory copyright infringement but NBC Universal and Apple for direct infringement.

It notes that JED Productions has provided the latter firms with “proof of the registration for ‘Side Show’ and has demanded that they cease and desist from continuing to infringe plaintiff’s copyrights. These defendants, however, continue to use ‘Side Show’ in ‘The Heat'”.

That means the legal battle with Apple is no mere, well, sideshow to the legal battle between JED and Nakamiche.

Although the latter does face a bigger list of allegations, Jackson accusing the Nakamiche company of slander of title, intentional interference with prospective economic relations, false designation of origin and defamation, as well as the contributory copyright infringement claim.

We now await responses from all the defendants.